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Where she’s looking, the tabletop’s a patter of yellow fingerprints. Mahfood must have the room mornings, Bertha decides. He doesn’t believe in erasers.

She remembers discovering colored chalk, hanging around Dad’s classroom after hours. The colors were soft and pure; she expected them to smell like blueberry, lemon and pine. They didn’t, though. They smelled like chalk.

Julian drops a sheaf of papers before her. “Sorry they’re late.”

“Julian,” she begins, “I have to discuss–”

“I know,” he replies. “She told me herself.”

Bertha looks down at the table; he leaves. Pain, always waiting, leans in to touch her shoulder.